The rumor mill once hinted at Mercedes-Benz buying Aston Martin. Not likely. But will the two team up on a project level? That's the talk from Financial Times, reporting Aston may build the next Maybach in a swap for drivetrains.
The FT reports the two companies are considering a partnership that would see Mercedes-Benz provide engine technology in exchange for Aston Martin developing and building Maybach vehicles. The thinking is Aston's boutique manufacturing expertise will allow it to build the low-volume, big luxe sedan more cheaply than Mercedes-Benz could. Notably, Aston's deft use of outsourcing—passing off production of the Rapide to Austria's Magna Steyr, for example—has been an important strategy in keeping costs down and quality up. What's more, without Ford's backing, Aston Martin needs a source for its next-generation engines, and Benz surely has the kind of gear Aston needs for the power-plus-efficiency age.
What's unspoken here is that Aston Martin might infuse the excruciatingly slow-selling Maybach with much-needed panache. Maybach may be high in luxury but it's monumentally lacking in X-factor. Aston's got more X-factor than it knows what to do with. A perfect match?
Mercedes-Benz and Aston already share an interesting business connection. Aston's majority shareholder is Kuwait-based Investment Dar, and Kuwaiti Investment Authority owns seven percent of MB's parent company Daimler AG. Ford still owns a 15 percent stake in Aston Martin.
And don't forget that Aston Martin's Lagonda SUV concept was based on the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class platform. Rumors have swirled as recently as this past October that Aston CEO Ulrich Bez has already greenlit the Lagonda for production.
Either way, you know an announcement is coming, if not by the Geneva show, then by Frankfurt in late 2011. Maybe Aston will even pick up a new V12 in the bargain.